Fewer Than Half of People Having Health Checks, Analysis Shows

Peter Russell

August 30, 2018

Fewer than half of people aged 40 and older in England who were eligible for an NHS health check in the last 5 years actually received one, a charity has said.

Diabetes UK, which based its findings on official figures, warned that the low uptake was putting a significant number of people at increased risk of life-threatening diseases.

Check-ups Every 5 Years 

NHS health checks, launched in England in 2009, offer people aged 40 to 74 a free 5-yearly check-up to identify early signs and risk factors for stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Patients over 65 are also told how to spot signs of dementia. Additionally, patients are given advice about how to stay healthy.

Between 2013 and 2018, the number of people eligible to receive an NHS Health Check in England totalled 15.5 million but the charity's analysis found that only 6.8 million (44%) went on to receive one.

The figures revealed significant regional differences across the country. There was a 50% attendance rate among those in the East of England but just 35% in the South West.

When statisticians drilled down to local authority level the variation in attendance was even greater. In Walsall, 99% of the eligible population received a health check, with Bolton second placed at 91.7% and Westminster at 91%.

At the other end of the scale, the worst performing areas were found to be the East Riding of Yorkshire and Croydon with 18%, followed closely by Surrey at 18.6%.
 

Local Authorities 'Need to Try Harder'

Diabetes UK said only 55 local authorities in England delivered more NHS Health Checks in 2017-2018 than they did in 2015-2016, while the remaining 97 delivered fewer.

Diabetes UK said local authorities should pay attention to their legal duty to 'seek continuous improvement' in the number of people in their area having health checks. A higher uptake of health checks would also increase the number of referrals to the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme for those found to be at high risk of type 2 diabetes, it said. 
 
Robin Hewings, head of policy at Diabetes UK, said: "The success of the programme in certain areas is due to local councils working hard to make it easier for people to attend these free health checks that only take 15 minutes and can help keep people healthy.
 
"It is absolutely vital that all people who are eligible in every area get a health check. If left undiagnosed type 2 diabetes can lead to devastating complications, including blindness, amputations, stroke, and kidney failure; but with the right treatment and support, people living with the condition can lead a long, full and healthy life."

Professor Jamie Waterall, Public Health England's national lead for the NHS Health Check programme, said: "Heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes are among the biggest causes of early death and ill health in England, but most cases are preventable. 

"That's why the continued effort to expand the NHS Health Check programme is so important as it helps identify who is at risk and, more importantly, what they can do about it. 
 
"Public Health England is working hard to support every council to provide these vital checks for people aged 40 to 74 years old."
 

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